Ah Zombies, what would pop culture be without you? Probably a lot less repetitive but hey, I’m glad they exist, regardless. Zombies have been used for basic enemy fodder in video games for decades but what if there was a game that lets you play as a zombie? The tables have turned in Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse, originally released for the original Xbox back in October 2005 and has now been ported to the Nintendo Switch.

Gameplay

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse puts you in control of...well, Stubbs the Zombie! He’s never actually called that in game and yet, someone calls him by the name he went by when he was alive at the end of the game, though. Is that considered dead naming or alive naming since he’s a zombie? Oh right! The review...

Your main objective is to make it to the end of each level by devouring the brains of the citizens of Punchbowl and slowly amassing a horde of zombie followers in order to help you take on stronger enemies. That's not all Stubbs can do though as he has a few abilities to help him out when things get tough. He can let out a big fart that’ll stun nearby enemies, making them vulnerable to the good ol’ brain to mouth hugs that zombies love to do so much; he can throw his organs out like grenades and detonate them to help fight enemies that can attack from range; he can tear his arm off which you then gain control of to help with scouting out ahead and it can also take control of enemies and climb up walls and finally, he can take his head off and roll it like a bowling ball which can then detonate for massive damage. It’s all a lot of fun!

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World / Level Design

Truth be told, the level design is a bit basic. There are really only three level types: big open areas where all the enemies are thrown at you at once, indoor areas where the main challenge is navigating your horde of zombies through small corridors and streets where enemies shoot at you from above making you hide for cover and find a way up to them. While the levels themselves can be pretty varied at times, with only three different styles of levels, it really does feel like you’re going through the same levels with only a different coat of paint at times.

Story / Personality

While Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse does have a story, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t pay attention to it. It’s a little hard to write a story when your main protagonist can only speak in grunts and your writing staff is more interested in writing jokes about gas pumps having sex with cars. The story for Stubbs the Zombie is that Stubbs gets resurrected, he sees an advertisement with a beautiful woman in it and now he wants to meet that woman. The levels themselves seem to be completely random at first but by the end of the game, you find out that there's a good reason that Stubbs went to most of those areas.

The writing for this game is extremely tongue in cheek; this game was not meant to be taken seriously. In one level, you’ll be having a dance battle with the minister of defence and in another, you’ll be fighting inbred hillbillies and then, you’ll ride a sheep to the town’s damn, pee in the water supply and have a boss fight with a Nazi scientist. This game goes off the rails real quick and I had a smile on my face the whole way through.

Graphics / Art Direction

The Graphics for Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse is very much stuck in the early 2000s - this is a port after all, not a remaster; heck, all the cutscenes are still in 4:3! I’m not saying these graphics are bad, they’re just dated. This is how games looked like when I was in my teens so I’m perfectly ok with graphics like this but I know there are people out there who like their games to look as new and shiny as possible and you won't be getting that here.

The game has a very pre-war Fallout universe style aesthetic to it as everything looks like what people in the 50s thought the future was going to look like. Hover cars, impractical bulky robots that are only built for one purpose, lots of smooth rounded edges - the works. Stubbs, being more of a comedic game though, uses the futuristic 50s aesthetic to play for laughs, so it feels more like Ren & Stimpy’s House Of Next Tuesday rather than something like the aforementioned pre-war Fallout rendition of the style that a lot of people are familiar with. The style is done pretty well and the more goofy cartoony look for the game makes it age better than most. Unfortunately, some areas near the end don’t look nearly as good as the areas at the beginning, mainly just being basic dark streets surrounded by grey buildings on all sides, so the game feels like its budget was running out by the end of production.

Music / Sound Design

This game is one of the few I had to alter the in-game audio for. It is loud as hell! It doesn’t help that the majority of sounds you’ll be hearing throughout the game are the screams of your victims as you eat their brains and gunfire. Enemy voice lines will also get very annoying really quickly; each enemy will have about five to six lines depending on the situation but each level will only have about three to four different enemy types, so you’ll be hearing repeated dialogue consistently.

The game also doesn’t really have that much of a soundtrack; I think there was music playing in the first level but the screams of civilians drowned it out. What you will hear though is a 50s noir-esque tune whenever you use your possessing arm ability (which is quite charming) but most of the game's music shows up during a small rhythm game boss battle which feature covers of songs like Mr Sandman, Lollipop and Earth Angel, which were a real treat to hear.

Final Score: 72%

I miss games like these. These days, all we really see are AAA games and indies - what happened to all those games in between? Stubbs the Zombie knows exactly what it is: it’s a nice, short game that comes in, makes you laugh and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Thank you for checking out our Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse Switch review, thank you to Zebra Partners for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: